God’s plans never fail. God has often placed His in a position to understand and believe that fact. He sent them into battle outnumbered. He commanded them to do that which seemed foolhardy or nonsensical from the human perspective (build an ark, offer the son of promise, march around a city and blow trumpets in order to defeat it, etc).
- We have been studying faith from the teaching of Hebrews 11. Those who are mentioned in this chapter were often called upon to put their trust in God’s long rang plans. True faith demanded that they look past what appeared to be happening to affirm and act upon God’s plan.
- In fact, the whole Bible is an accounting of God’s plans over any other schemes. It’s historical content affirms that real history can only be properly understood in the context of God’s plans. What we see is not just happenstance or even the fruit of mankind’s planning or evolution. God is working and has been working all along.
- What is God’s plan?
Read Eph. 1:3-14 – These verse depict the consummation of the plan of God in what is probably the longest sentence in the entire Bible in the original language. In Paul’s inspired description of God’s scheme, the phrases that flow together praise God for what He planned in our behalf and then brought to fruition in Christ. The sentence, just like God’s plan itself, reaches from past eternity (“before the foundation of the world” v. 4)to the final inheritance of God’s people for which they were sealed (“the guarantee of our inheritance” – vs. 14)
I. “the Counsel of His will” (v. 11) : God’s counsel and God’s will are practically synonymous in scripture. But in Eph. 1:11 a distinction may be observed. Eph. 1:11 “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,”
- The word for counsel here indicates the expression of a will through a decision or decree. “It is the result of refection denoting deliberation”.
- the will is the general intent, or purpose of an individual. What is desired.
- the counsel of God’s will is the expression of His will through decision or decree. How a will is put into practice or reality.
- Ex. – (I want (purpose) my children to get a good night’s sleep, so I express that intent through my counsel (determinate decision or decree) that they must go to bed at 8:00 pm.
A. God’s plan had a purpose. He purposed to make us blameless before Him. Eph 1:4-6 “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.”
- God’s purpose could not be accomplished through our own efforts. We are not blameless, but guilty. God expressed His will in our favor through the counsel of His will by which he has worked all things. Notice how the will of God was accomplished in our behalf:
- He chose us to be “in Him”
- Adopted us as sons by Jesus Christ
- According to His good pleasure (doing just what He wanted to do)
- To the praise of His grace (not my efforts)
- Through which (His grace) He accepted me in Christ (beloved)
Paul clearly indicates that it was the will of God that I would be blameless and holy through what Christ would do for me. I can only be accepted “in the Beloved”.
2 Cor 5:18-19 – Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Vs. 21 – For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
B. God’s Purpose had a Plan: Our salvation was not the product of wishful thinking or accidental history. God’s desire to save us (His will) was expressed in His counsel. He had a plan. Verse 4 says that he “chose us before the foundation of the world” indicating that the plan for redemption preceded the need for it. But notice also the statement in Eph 1:9 “having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself”, The word for purpose her is prothesis, derived from a word that means to “set before oneself,… hence a plan or purpose of mind” God laid this out in His mind as an architect might envision a structure before it is built. Later Paul refers to this plan as the “eternal purpose of God” (Eph. 3:11)
a. As we noticed last week, His will is labeled a mystery here because although it was purposed in God before time, it was just then in the process of being fully made known. It had been hidden, but was now being revealed.
b. The will of God was revealed to the apostles (guided into all truth – John 16:14). The apostles have revealed this mystery in the words of scripture. 1 Cor 2:11-13 – 11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. 13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
c. How would all men hear about God’s plan? In Eph. 3:5 Paul says that “which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men… has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets:” Paul also says in Romans 10 we cannot call on the name of the Lord unless we believe, and we cannot believe unless we hear, and we cannot hear unless it is preached! Gal 1:11-12 – 1 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
II. What Was the Plan? Eph 1:10 “that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth— in Him.” Who is the “him” in this statement? It is without a doubt Jesus Christ. God’s purposes were accomplished through Christ. The Jews stumbled at the crucifixion of Christ because they were convinced that God’s purposes would be accomplished through the law and the nation of Israel.
- Gal 3:23-28 – But before faith (revelation of the gospel) came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
- We are brought to Christ, have faith in Christ, baptized into Christ, put on Christ, and are all on in Christ. God’s intent was to unite and bless man spiritually, and the expression (counsel) of that will came through Christ alone.
A. God’s plan to save us has always been the same plan. He planned to save us “in Him”. Before the foundation of the world Christ was foreknown as the sacrificial deliverer for man. 1 Pet 1:18-21 “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you 21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”
B. The eternal scheme has two integral parts: God’s Provision & Man’s Submission
1. God has provided all the spiritual blessings necessary for man’s deliverance from the consequences of sin: atonement, propitiation, redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation, adoption – All in the cross. If Jesus had not come to earth & died on Calvary the plan of God would have been to no avail.
2. Man must submissively yield to God’s plan and thereby avail himself of these blessings that are in Christ. Notice the expression of this in Eph 1:12-14 “that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. 13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.” Man’s part was to trust in Christ. That trust began in the hearing of the word of truth.
C. God’s Plan in Action: Wherever the purpose and plan (Counsel of His will) was proclaimed, honest hearts responded. The first record of this is in Acts 2 .
1. Peter preached the provision of God. Through the power of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he perfectly rehearsed the O.T. scriptures that spoke about God’s purpose to save men and women through Jesus Christ. Acts 2:21-24 – 1 And it shall come to pass That whoever calls on the name of the Lord Shall be saved.‘ [God’s purpose] 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. [God’s provision] … vs. 36 – “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
2. What was God’s counsel (directive)? Peter preached Man’s submission: Acts 2:38-39 – 38 Then Peter said to them,”Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
- Did the people submit to God’s counsel? 3000 were saved and added to the church. (Remember Paul said it was the eternal purpose of God that through the church the wisdom of God’s plan would be made known – (Eph. 3:9-10) These passages help us pinpoint what was involved in the apostolic revelation of God’s counsel. Not only did it contain promises to trust in but it also contained commands to be obeyed. Repent & be baptized.
D. How Can You Submit to the Plan that was Revealed? The apostle Paul wrote extensively about God’s eternal purpose in Christ and how men are saved through faith in Him. Notice what he says to the elders of this same Ephesian church: Acts 20:26-27 “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. But Paul wasn’t always preaching the plan. He was once Saul of Tarsus and involved in killing those who preached the plan. What changed Him? He heard the counsel of God and He submitted to Christ. Notice the description of Paul’s own submissive response to God’s plan – Acts 22:16 ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’. This passage helps us define what it means to call on the name of the Lord. Do you know that there is no N.T. passage that tells a non-Christian to pray for the forgiveness of sins or to pray in order to become a Christian? Paul called on the name of the Lord by arising and being baptized.
- Through his obedience in baptism he put on Christ and was baptized into His death. His faithful submission gave him access to God’s provision.
Conclusion: The purpose (will) of God is still to redeem men & women – He is not willing that any should perish. Does that mean that all will be saved? No, only those who submit to the whole counsel of His will. Those who are in Christ.. Are you in Him? Have you repented and been baptized?